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For a long time, my creativity had felt dormant. I wasn’t pursuing art and I was rarely creative. At school, I used to collect everyone’s scrap paper just so I could doodle on the pieces. Then GCSEs began, and from then on, my focus turned to school work and I didn’t leave myself much time for anything else until the end of A-levels. By then I had also lost a bit of my passion for art, as I was measuring my ability through my academic achievements. I didn’t take it for GCSE because I didn’t think I was good enough compared to my classmates. Then, at A-level, I was unable to study it because I hadn’t taken it for GCSE. But I don’t think I believed I could do it anyway – it had felt like such a long time since I really dedicated any time to art. But now, in this tier whatever-it-is (possibly lockdown), where every day feels the same, and after having had a year mostly spent wondering whether I should be doing more and constantly asking myself what I have achieved, I am so grateful for having delved back into art.
One significant part of my creative journey was simply joining the KCL Art Society. I had been a member alongside a friend during my first year, when I was too unsure of myself to go alone. Mattie and I scribbled awful charcoal doodles of each other between talking about fishnet stockings, sheer vests, and deadly heels. Despite the fact that I had a great time, I didn’t go back. I know it was mostly because, even though we were just messing about, deep down I wanted to create something effortless and surprisingly good.
Come third-year when, feeling much more at ease, I was no longer worried about trying something new alone, or concerned about expectations. Instead, I was trying to be a lot more accepting. So, with this newfound mindset, I went to my first life drawing class in February. Frank, the instructor, provided a brilliant warm-up that helped me let go of the desire to focus or try too hard. We did quick sketches ranging from one to five minutes, trying to capture the general movement and shape of the model. This is something I think is really important, and which helps me when I am stuck on an illustration. Sometimes you lose the life in a piece when you focus too hard on copying the image, instead of following the landscape. Giving myself that freedom from expectations and from thinking I had to have studied art academically allowed me to create a piece that I was really proud of, and a lot better than what I had expected. That kind of acceptance, I think we can all agree, can be applied in most situations in our everyday life – especially during this confusing time, when nobody knows when things will become normal again (at this point, I would even settle for normal-ish).
After having been inspired by a good friend from Art Society, I finally set up my art account on Instagram. This was a turning point for me, as I began to invest more time into my art in a place where I could see my progress. I started my account on May 1st, 2020 – it hasn’t even been in place for a year yet, but I am so proud and grateful for its growth. It was only when I set up my art account in May that I was asked to illustrate for the Phi Magazine. Phi Magazine has been essential to my creative journey and personal growth. It is a quarterly publication aimed to showcase the creative talent of philosophically-minded students across the world. I remember being so excited about this project, to the point where I was victory punching the air. To be honest, I have reacted in a similar way, beaming and replying, “Yes, of course!” to every opportunity that has come my way. Comparing my first contribution to the Phi Magazine to the accomplishments in third-year makes me incredibly proud to have witnessed my personal and creative growth. I remember asking Chiara, the amazing individual behind the whole thing, about submitting, and feeling like a shy school child. I ended up having a poem and a photograph printed in separate issues. That was early 2019 – fast forward to 2020, I couldn’t believe Chiara wanted me to illustrate, even if it was just a simple sketch to go with a few written pieces.
My personal growth has definitely played a huge part in my interest in art. Without my newfound confidence, I would have never asked about submitting to the Phi Magazine, tried new things, or made so many new friends. All these experiences led to more opportunities to create and learn more about art, as well as build relationships. This made me feel surer of myself, creatively and within the creative community itself, which again fed back to my general confidence. The same can be said of other qualities such as spontaneity. I enjoy reflecting on how my personal and creative growth has been intertwined this way.
Something which pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me build confidence was being on the cover of the Phi magazine for the sex edition, naturally. I remember being so excited – I adored the magazine. But I was a little nervous about the reaction I would have towards the result, worried that I would see myself and hate it. So again, I tried to have no expectations, to just view it as an experience, and think that this new experience would be, by nature, good in itself. In the end, I had such an incredible time. I’m sure some of the confidence gained then led me to go to Art Society in the weeks that followed. When I went there and spent a good few hours studying a single body, I fell in love with all the rolls, cellulite, edges, and lines. Every detail was simply stunning, and the work of art was both the lady’s body and the impressions in the charcoal. I was thrilled when I was asked to submit my illustration to the exhibition for the magazine’s release.
These small steps, from being on the cover of Phi Magazine, to joining KCL’s Art Society, drawing for the exhibition, creating an art account, and then illustrating for Phi, have been part of my fondest memories in my final year, and paved the way towards a year filled with new friendships, projects, and finding enjoyment in art again.
My first post on my art account was: “I wanted to do this. To create an interesting …account. But I thought I needed a theme or a plan of execution and that’s why the previous attempts didn’t last long. But maybe I don’t need that. I’ll work it out as I go along. First I just need to start. I was inspired today to try again and perhaps that is the important thing. To let inspiration take hold of you, to keep trying, to just start.” And when I posted my first life drawing piece, I made a note to myself: “try new things, pick up old hobbies, allow yourself to be proud.” I think this sums up what I am grateful to have learnt during a creative year.
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